If you trawl expat forums, you are likely to come across some heavy criticism of the Dutch maternity system. And yes, I agree, having a baby in the Netherlands may not be the same as having a baby back in your home country but there are worse things you can do. Here’s what I’ve learnt through two pregnancies and births in the Netherlands.
Who Ya Gonna Call?First things first. When you know you are pregnant, make an appointment with a midwife (verloskundige). Finding a midwife is easy, but the best way is to talk to people you know. Your midwife is a main player in your pregnancy and labour (and in most cases your delivery too). The second thing you need to do (preferably before 12 weeks) is to register with a kraamzorg service provider; this is your postnatal maternity nurse who will look after you and your baby during the first week after the birth. Kraamzorg, as far as I am concerned, is like a fairy godmother for expats.
Planning the BirthAt your first appointment your midwife will go through your medical history, as well as your partner’s and your extended family to assess any medical risks. If there are any medical indications you will be told you must give birth in a hospital. If there is no medical reason for a hospital birth you have a choice.
The Dutch are keen advocates of home births (thuisbevalling) and the key word when it comes to childbirth here is natural. It is the reason why a third of babies are born at home in the Netherlands, compared to fewer than two percent in the UK and US.
So if you want a natural birth, you have the option to deliver at home - if you want pain relief a home birth is automatically ruled out.
You are however free to choose a hospital birth even if there is no medical indication (poliklinische bevalling) but check which costs your health insurer will cover as they normally only offer complete coverage if there is a medical reason for giving birth in hospital. You are also free to ask for pain relief - research hospital options and plan in advance to ensure that your wishes can be met.
A birthing plan (geboorteplan) is a good idea, so that it is clear to your midwife and hospital staff what your wishes are and how you picture the birth.
Remember that you have lots of time to make up your mind and that plans can change. I had a home birth planned the first time around but there was meconium in the amniotic fluid so it was straight off to the hospital. Don’t fixate on planning the perfect delivery.
Your Baby on the Little ScreenYour first echo is around eight weeks to check all is well and establishes the due date (uitgerekende datum). You will have a second scan around twelve weeks and a third around twenty weeks (at which you may also ask about gender if you wish). In the last stage of pregnancy, as you are nearing the finish line, it’s nice to go for a 3D scan – it’s been a while since you have seen your baby but you’ll need to dip into your own wallet for this one.
Pre-Natal ChecksMeanwhile, your midwife will see you on a monthly basis to check your blood pressure, the growth and heartbeat of your baby and its position. You will also need to go for blood tests at various intervals. As your belly grows so does the frequency of midwife appointments.
Pregnancy CourseThink about attending a pregnancy class - there are many options out there from dealing with breathing techniques to pregnancy yoga or fitness and swimming. In larger Dutch cities there are often maternity courses especially for expats. If your Dutch is reasonable you also have the choice to attend Samen Bevallen, which stands out because both you and your partner attend every session.
Guests in the Delivery RoomOne day, usually around your due date give or take a week or two, you’ll suddenly have a strange feeling in your stomach. You’ve either eaten something bad, or your baby is telling you to get geared up for his or her arrival. At this point, if your mum, sister or best friend can’t be there you’ll wish you’d thought about a doula. And I can highly recommend going down that route. My first delivery was sans doula but I didn’t make that mistake for my second experience of childbirth. And it made all the difference.
KraamzorgIn the week after the birth your hormones are a little crazy and you suddenly have a little person to look after that cries a lot and feeds every two hours or so. It’s a big change at a time when you feel like you have been catapulted in to a wall a hundred times or so (trust me, wait until the drugs wear off). In walks kraamzorg. The best Dutch thing EVER.
The first time around I thought the last thing I needed after giving birth was a stranger in my home. I opted for a few hours of kraamzorg help a day. The second time around I grabbed my maximum amount of hours and begged for more. When some of your nearest and dearest are many miles away in another country, you quickly realise you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I was extremely lucky both times and had amazing help – if you don’t feel the same way then call your provider and get a replacement as it can make or break the first week at home with your newborn.
Expect to cry when your kraamzorg leaves. You’ll think you won’t cope, your kraamzorg tells you you will. You’ll try to bribe her to stay, she’ll say no and the next day you’re on your own. And you’ll be fine.
- Parenting in Holland
- Maternity Matters – What to Expect in Holland
- Kraamzorg – Postnatal Care in the Netherlands
- Access Childbirth and Baby Courses in The Hague and Amsterdam
- Delft MaMa – For expats in Delft and surrounding areas
The opinions and content within this post are solely those of the guest poster and in no way reflect the views of the Clogs and Tulips blog or its blogger.